Turkish jets strike Kurdish militants after Istanbul bombing

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Turkey launched air strikes in Syria and Iraq overnight, targeting Kurdish militants it said were behind an Istanbul bombing that it had vowed to avenge.

Jets pounded bases belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliate, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), across Turkey’s borders, the defence ministry said in a statement that cited Turkey’s right to self-defence in carrying out the strikes. A tweet from the ministry said the air operation had been “successfully completed”.

Last week, Turkey said it would retaliate after a bomb attack it blamed on Kurdish insurgents killed six people in central Istanbul on November 13. The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organisation in Europe and the US, denied it was behind the bombing.

The foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, wrote on Twitter that “it’s reckoning time” after the military began its operation late on Saturday.

Turkey regularly conducts air and small-scale land operations in northern Iraq, where the PKK is based. The army has also staged three full-scale incursions into Syria since 2016 to fight Kurdish rebels and controls several thousand square kilometres of territory along its border.

It is unclear if there will be further strikes. Another large-scale invasion could rally support for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ahead of an election next year. This year, he had promised to invade Syria again but failed to win a green light from Russia and Iran, who support Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The United States, which backs the YPG-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its campaign against the Islamic State, also opposes further Turkish military interventions in Syria.

The SDF said the strikes hit two villages where internally displaced people live, Reuters reported. It was not immediately clear if people were killed or wounded.

 

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